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Video transcript

This small room brings together works of art made in the years 1914 and 1915 and so inevitably heavily reflects the impact of the First World War that started in the autumn of 1914. Typical is this work by Jacob Epstein called ‘Torso from the Rock Drill’. The Rock Drill was an extraordinary huge sculpture in which a plaster mechanised robot like figure sat on top of an enormous miner’s drill. By 1915 Epstein was so disillusioned by the war that he couldn't bear the sight of this image of mechanised destruction and he took the figure down and cut it in half, making it this much more ambiguous image with this helmeted machine like head and yet within its torso a small embryo, an image of hopeful renewal in the future. David Bomberg’s ‘The Mud Bath’ is one of the great paintings of Twentieth Century British art. It was based on drawings he made at a steam baths in the East End, then a very strongly Jewish part of London and you can see these figures about to dive into the waters or half submerged in the pool. The colours surely refer to the Union Flag and of course the title 'The Mud Bath' now shows a weird sort of prescience in that within months so many millions of men would be caught in the mud bath of the trenches in Northern France and Belgium. This painting by Walter Sickert made in 1915 shows a seaside vaudeville act on the Brighton sea front. It's a rather melancholy scene and not one which obviously indicates the war that is going on around it and yet if we look closely we see the deck chairs are mostly empty and there is this rather ominous glowing sunset in the west, a sense of a dying culture perhaps. It seems to continue Sickert’s fascination with the music hall and yet I think within it is this sort of sense of the melancholy that infected Britain during the First World War.